Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern. A popular tourist destination, Hohenzollern castle has over 300,000 visitors per year, making it one of the most visited castles in Germany. The castle sits atop the 855 meters Berg Hohenzollern, an isolated 855 m promontory on the western side of the Swabian Alps.
The first fortress on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. Over the years the House of Hohenzollern split several times, but the castle remained in the Swabian branch, the dynastic seniors of the Franconian-Brandenburgian cadet branch that later acquired its own imperial throne. This castle was completely destroyed in 1423 after a ten-month siege by the free imperial cities of Swabia. A larger and sturdier structure was constructed from 1454 to 1461, which served as a refuge for the Catholic Swabian Hohenzollerns, including during the Thirty Years' War. By the end of the 18th century it was thought to have lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, leading to the demolition of several dilapidated buildings. Today, only the medieval chapel remains.
The final castle was built between 1846 and 1867 as a family memorial by Hohenzollern scion King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Architect Friedrich August Stüler based his design on English Gothic Revival architecture and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. No member of the Hohenzollern family was in permanent or regular residence when it was completed, and none the three Deutsche Kaiser of the late 19th and early 20th century German Empire ever occupied the castle; in 1945 it briefly became the home of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last Hohenzollern monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Since 1952, the castle has been filled with art and historical artifacts from the collections of the Hohenzollern family and the former Hohenzollern Museum in Schloss Monbijou. Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle are the Crown of Wilhelm II, some of the personal effects of King Frederick the Great, and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Hohenzollern descendant Baron von Steuben for his service in the American Revolutionary War. From 1952 until 1991 the caskets of Frederick Wilhelm I and Frederick the Great were in the chapel, but were moved back to Potsdam following German reunification in 1991.
The castle is still privately owned, with two-thirds belonging to the Brandenburg-Prussian family line.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick.